December 13, 2009

Why are Christmas decorations everywhere?

Here are Christmas illuminations in front of a church on the Higashimuki Street near Kintetsu Nara Station. Many people stop and take pictures.      

This time of year, Japan is filled with red and green decorations, and stores play Jingle Bells. Even such a small alley is decorated with modest Christmas lights.

Only one percent of Japanese population is Christian. Why are Christmas decorations everywhere?

Maybe Japanese people put a lot of emphasis on the seasons and feel the aesthetic beauty of the seasonal changes. In the old Japanese calendar, besides 4 seasons, there are even 24 seasonal divisions in a year. Now Christmas is becoming 25th seasonal division for us.

Or just are we Christmas Christian・・・・・?


  1. "Christmas Christian". I like that. It sounds similar in meaning to fair-weather friend.

    I think bright lights in the cold season and the colours of red and green seem cheerful to anybody, regardless of culture or religion.

    BTW, Ayn Rand was an atheist (someone who does not believe in religion or God), so someone asked her if it's ok for an atheist to celebrate Christmas. Here is her answer (1976):
    The secular meaning of the Christmas holiday is wider than the tenets of any particular religion: it is good will toward men—a frame of mind which is not the exclusive property (though it is supposed to be part, but is a largely unobserved part) of the Christian religion.

    The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: “Merry Christmas”—not “Weep and Repent.” And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form—by giving presents to one’s friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance . . . .

    The best aspect of Christmas is the aspect usually decried by the mystics: the fact that Christmas has been commercialized. The gift-buying . . . stimulates an enormous outpouring of ingenuity in the creation of products devoted to a single purpose: to give men pleasure. And the street decorations put up by department stores and other institutions—the Christmas trees, the winking lights, the glittering colors—provide the city with a spectacular display, which only “commercial greed” could afford to give us. One would have to be terribly depressed to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle.

  2. I agree, snowwhite, Japanese don't see four seasons just as four groups but subtle changing seasons from one to another. I suppose it's because Japanese people's thoughts that things are fleeting.

    I do love this time of the year and the excitement in the air, lights, ribbons and greenery, since my childhood. I agree with Ayn Rand. Good will toward each other, the warmth of family and friends together; these can be good for everyone regardless of religion and culture. By exchanging gifts, children learn the joy of not only receiving but also giving. I liked tearing the wrapping off the present just chosen for me. Well, I wish you a merry secular Christmas!

  3. to Marc
    Sometimes I use fair-weather Buddhist, fair-weather Shintoist and fair-weather Christian. It is easier to elxplain why we go to a shrine on New Year's Day and condemn a funeral in a Buddhist style and hold a wedding ceremony in a church.
    In Japan there are many national holidays. Some of them have the special meaning. But the others don't have any reason,they are just in-between holidays. They were made to give more rest to workholic Japanese people.
    I think we don't need any reason to have more happy occasionslike Christmas.
    But it is also true this time of year is the most lonely time for some people.

  4. to stardust
    I agree with you . More enjoyable occasions we have , more happy we are.
    Christmas in the west is compaired to New Year's holidays in Japan. People return to their hometowns and families gather. I don't think we need the reasons to have more chances to gather and enjoy.


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